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By In Culture, Theology

Sola Fide: The Problem With the Sinner’s Prayer

I am a Reformed Protestant, and I don’t believe we are saved by faith alone. Neither do I believe we are “once saved, always saved.” Do those statements seem strange to you? Then you’ve probably fallen prey to one of the great distortions of Protestant and evangelical theology. Read on, and I’ll explain.

Both the material cause of the split between Rome and the Reformers (Sola Fide, or “faith alone”), and the formal cause (Sola Scriptura, or “Scripture alone”), suffer from widespread distortions and misunderstandings, even among Protestants who claim to espouse these principles. As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I want to debunk some popular myths about these two of the Five Solae.

The Pseudo-Sacrament of Conversion

Let’s start with Sola Fide, as it’s commonly embodied in evangelical circles: as a sort of confession of guilt and pledge of allegiance to God known as “the sinner’s prayer.” It usually goes something like this: (more…)

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By In Theology, Worship

10 Questions Preachers Should Ask Before Sunday Morning

I have been a pastor for almost a decade. I spend between 12-15 hours each week thinking, researching, and writing before I deliver the first words in my Sunday sermon.a The process of writing my sermon goes through a lengthy journey each week. I contemplate several questions from Monday to Friday which force me to edit and re-edit my manuscript. There is no perfect sermon, but a sermon that goes through revisions and asks import questions has a much better chance of communicating with clarity than the self-assured preacher who engages the sermonic task with nothing more than academic lenses.

I have compiled a list of ten questions I ask myself each week at some point or another.

Question #1: Is this language clear? When you write a manuscript ( as I do) you have an opportunity to carefully consider the language you use. I make a habit of reading my sermon out loud which leads me to realize that certain phrases do not convey the idea clearly. A well-written sermon does not necessarily mean a well-delivered sermon. Reading my sermons out loud causes me to re-write and look for other ways to explain a concept or application more clearly.

Question #2: Is there a need to use high theological language in this sermon? Seminary graduates are often tempted to use the best of their training in the wrong environment. People are not listening to you to hear your theological acumen. I am well aware that some in the congregation would be entirely comfortable with words like perichoresis and Arianism. I am not opposed to using high theological discourse. Words like atonement, justification, sanctification are biblical and need to be defined. But extra-biblical terms and ideologies should be employed sparingly. Much of this can be dealt in a Sunday School class or other environments. High theological language needs to be used with great care, and I think it needs to be avoided as much as possible in the Sunday sermon.

Question #3: Can I make this sermon even shorter? As I read my sermons each week, I find that I can cut a paragraph or two easily, or depending on how long you preach, perhaps an entire page. This is an important lesson for new preachers: not everything needs to be said. Shorter sermons–which I strongly advocateb–force you to say what’s important and keep some of your research in the footnotes where it belongs. Preachers need to learn what to prioritize in a sermon so as not to unload unnecessary information on their parishioners. (more…)

  1. Thankful for great interactions before this article was published. It helped sharpen my points  (back)
  2. By this I mean sermons no longer than 30 minutes  (back)

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By In Scribblings

John Calvin on the Sacraments

John_Calvin_by_Holbein1. After God has once received us into his family, it is not that he may regard us in the light of servants, but of sons, performing the part of a kind and anxious parent, and providing for our maintenance during the whole course of our lives. And, not contented with this, he has been pleased by a pledge to assure us of his continued liberality. To this end, he has given another sacrament to his Church by the hand of his only-begotten Son—viz. a spiritual feast, at which Christ testifies that he himself is living bread (John 6:51), on which our souls feed, for a true and blessed immortality… First, then, the signs are bread and wine, which represent the invisible food which we receive from the body and blood of Christ. For as God, regenerating us in baptism, ingrafts us into the fellowship of his Church, and makes us his by adoption, so we have said that he performs the office of a provident parent, in continually supplying the food by which he may sustain and preserve us in the life to which he has begotten us by his word. Moreover, Christ is the only food of our soul, and, therefore, our heavenly Father invites us to him, that, refreshed by communion with him, we may ever and anon gather new vigour until we reach the heavenly immortality. But as this mystery of the secret union of Christ with believers is incomprehensible by nature, he exhibits its figure and image in visible signs adapted to our capacity, nay, by giving, as it were, earnests and badges, he makes it as certain to us as if it were seen by the eye; the familiarity of the similitude giving it access to minds however dull, and showing that souls are fed by Christ just as the corporeal life is sustained by bread and wine. We now, therefore, understand the end which this mystical benediction has in view—viz. to assure us that the body of Christ was once sacrificed for us, so that we may now eat it, and, eating, feel within ourselves the efficacy of that one sacrifice,that his blood was once shed for us so as to be our perpetual drink. This is the force of the promise which is added, “Take, eat; this is my body, which is broken for you” (Mt. 26:26, &c.). The body which was once offered for our salvation we are enjoined to take and eat, that, while we see ourselves made partakers of it, we may safely conclude that the virtue of that death will be efficacious in us. Hence he terms the cup the covenant in his blood. For the covenant which he once sanctioned by his blood he in a manner renews, or rather continues, in so far as regards the confirmation of our faith, as often as he stretches forth his sacred blood as drink to us.

10. The sum is, that the flesh and blood of Christ feed our souls just as bread and wine maintain and support our corporeal life. For there would be no aptitude in the sign, did not our souls find their nourishment in Christ. This could not be, did not Christ truly form one with us, and refresh us by the eating of his flesh, and the drinking of his blood. But though it seems an incredible thing that the flesh of Christ, while at such a distance from us in respect of place, should be food to us, let us remember how far the secret virtue of the Holy Spirit surpasses all our conceptions, and how foolish it is to wish to measure its immensity by our feeble capacity. Therefore, what our mind does not comprehend let faith conceive—viz. that the Spirit truly unites things separated by space. That sacred communion of flesh and blood by which Christ transfuses his life into us, just as if it penetrated our bones and marrow, he testifies and seals in the Supper, and that not by presenting a vain or empty sign, but by there exerting an efficacy of the Spirit by which he fulfils what he promises. And truly the thing there signified he exhibits and offers to all who sit down at that spiritual feast, although it is beneficially received by believers only who receive this great benefit with true faith and heartfelt gratitude. For this reason the apostle said, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ”? (1 Cor. 10:16.) There is no ground to object that the expression is figurative, and gives the sign the name of the thing signified. I admit, indeed, that the breaking of bread is a symbol, not the reality. But this being admitted, we duly infer from the exhibition of the symbol that the thing itself is exhibited. For unless we would charge God with deceit, we will never presume to say that he holds forth an empty symbol. Therefore, if by the breaking of bread the Lord truly represents the partaking of his body, there ought to be no doubt whatever that he truly exhibits and performs it. The rule which the pious ought always to observe is, whenever they see the symbols instituted by the Lord, to think and feel surely persuaded that the truth of the thing signified is also present. For why does the Lord put the symbol of his body into your hands, but just to assure you that you truly partake of him? If this is true let us feel as much assured that the visible sign is given us in seal of an invisible gift as that his body itself is given to us.

11. I hold then (as has always been received in the Church, and is still taught by those who feel aright), that the sacred mystery of the Supper consists of two things—the corporeal signs, which, presented to the eye, represent invisible things in a manner adapted to our weak capacity, and the spiritual truth, which is at once figured and exhibited by the signs. When attempting familiarly to explain its nature, I am accustomed to set down three things—the thing meant, the matter which depends on it, and the virtue or efficacy consequent upon both. The thing meant consists in the promises which are in a manner included in the sign. By the matter, or substance, I mean Christ, with his death and resurrection. By the effect, I understand redemption, justification, sanctification, eternal life, and all other benefits which Christ bestows upon us. Moreover, though all these things have respect to faith, I leave no room for the cavil, that when I say Christ is conceived by faith, I mean that he is only conceived by the intellect and imagination. He is offered by the promises, not that we may stop short at the sight or mere knowledge of him, but that we may enjoy true communion with him. And, indeed, I see not how any one can expect to have redemption and righteousness in the cross of Christ, and life in his death, without trusting first of all to true communion with Christ himself. Those blessings could not reach us, did not Christ previously make himself ours. I say then, that in the mystery of the Supper, by the symbols of bread and wine, Christ, his body and his blood, are truly exhibited to us, that in them he fulfilled all obedience, in order to procure righteousness for us— first that we might become one body with him; and, secondly, that being made partakers of his substance, we might feel the result of this fact in the participation of all his blessings.

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book IV, Chapter 17, §1 & 10-11 (All the stuff in between is really good too and I would encourage you to read it.)

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By In Books, Politics

New Publication from Kuyperian Press!

Infant Baptism - You and Your Household_smfront

Kuyperian Press is proud to announce the forthcoming publication of Dr. Gregg Strawbridge’s booklet on infant baptism. The Kindle edition will be available in the next coming days in preparation for his debate with Dr. James R. White on the topic on the 23rd of March.


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By In Theology

Living Water: Foundations of Baptism in Creation

Why do we baptize with water? Since Scripture gives us a water ritual to perform, the element used in that ritual must contain some essential significance. How might we deepen our understanding of baptism by reflecting on the element of water?

One way to fill out our understanding of the waters of baptism would be to reflect on the import of water in our everyday experience, then apply those insights to baptism. Typically, reflection on the elements of the rite of baptism centers on the cleansing properties of water. Water washes away dirt and impurity. Water aids healing. This is quite true, and an important component of our understanding of baptism. This is also something readily discerned from Scripture (especially the law). However, the role of water as a cleansing agent doesn’t really emerge in Scripture until the time of the flood (at the earliest). Yet we read plenty about water in just the first two chapters of Genesis.

To fully understand the significance of the waters of baptism, we need to consider the nature of the world God created and how water functions in Scripture from the very beginning. If we read the creation narrative carefully, we will see that water figures prominently as a primal and vital element – a source of life for the world.1 (more…)

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By In Scribblings

Martin Luther’s Baptismal Prayer

Almighty, Eternal God, Who, according to Thy righteous judgment, didst condemn the unbelieving world through the flood and, in Thy great mercy, didst preserve believing Noah and his family; and Who didst drown hardhearted Pharaoh with all his host in the Red Sea and didst lead Thy people Israel through the same on dry ground, thereby prefiguring this bath of Thy baptism; and Who, through the baptism of Thy dear Child, our Lord Jesus Christ, hast consecrated and set apart the Jordan and all water as a salutary flood and a rich and full washing away of sins: We pray through the same Thy groundless mercy, that Thou wilt graciously behold this [child] and bless him with true faith in spirit, that by means of this saving flood all that has been born in him from Adam and which he himself has added thereto may be drowned in him and engulfed, and that he may be sundered from the number of the unbelieving, preserved dry and secure in the Holy Ark of Christendom, serve Thy Name at all times fervent in spirit and joyful in hope, so that with all believers he may be made worthy to attain eternal life according to Thy promise; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.<>реклама в google недорого

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By In Theology, Worship

What the Priesthood of All Believers is NOT

Two Controversial Concepts

There are few ideas as likely to breed contention as the two I intend to discuss below. Both relate to how a Christian is counted in the body of Christ and both speak to how we understand the Church’s catholicity. The first idea, sure to cause a stir anywhere it may appear, is the notion of hierarchy. Merely mentioning the existence of such a dirty thing as hierarchy comes across as un-American and surely anti-Christian in many modern circles, but if we take our Bibles seriously, we must recognize that hierarchy is inescapable. The second idea, which sorely needs to be discussed in Christendom, is the pernicious heresy of individualism. An idea which again brings forward, in American Christians, a tenet that may be seen as central to our faith and devotion. Yet despite the number of “Independent Bible Churches” erected, the nature of this oxymoron remains glaring. A Christian cannot be born, exist, or grow independent of the body.

These two concepts, hierarchy and individualism, are often given the syncopated resolution of the “priesthood of all believers.” In the minds of many, this doctrine is understood to mean that all the priestly functions of the clergy are available to all those who are believers, that our equal access to God means that we all have equal roles and rights in the Church. I believe much of this is due to our strong apprehension to any thing “Roman Catholic-y.” The result is the deletion of any distinction between the ordained ministry and the laity. This flattened view of the Apostolic order either obliterates the concept of ordination or undermines the meaning of the sacraments, oftentimes accomplishing both.

Understanding the “priesthood of all believers” begins with recognizing what this concept is not.

Pope Francis What the Priesthood of All Believers is NOT

The priesthood of all believers in NOT the Papacy of all believers.

The Papacy does not have its own direct divine revelation from God, the Pope is not infallible, the Pope does not have universal jurisdiction, and neither do we. The priesthood of all believers is not an opportunity for each individual Christian to develop their own theology. No believer today comes to Christ through their own innovation, for we all must come to Christ through the historic community of believers. Too often have I heard, “All I need is my Bible.” This is the formula for a new cult, not orthodox Christianity. “My Bible” through the work of the Holy Ghost was given to the care of the Church. As the body of Christ, the Church has recognized, preserved, taught, translated, printed, and distributed “my Bible” to the Christians of the world throughout history.

“Me and my Bible” individualistic Christianity does not promote the purity of the Gospel, but serves instead to create mini-popes. If we are entitled to our own interpretation, who is to say what is correct? Like the Pope, we don’t speak ex cathedra. We have the received faith of the Bible, of the Creeds, and of the Church. Which in the progression of history have served to conciliate each other against individualism.

Snake Bible What the Priesthood of All Believers is NOT

The priesthood of all believers in NOT the Presbytery of all believers.

What is the true Church?  Who are the True Christians? Are Roman Catholics Christians? How about Mormons?

The priesthood of all believers is not an invitation for Christians to sit in judgement of the salvation of other Christians or to develop their own standards for what constitutes a Christian Church. For those unfamiliar with the term, a presbytery (or classis) is a leadership council of higher ranking clergy that rule over various issues that may arise from the church. As a human institution, the Church will always face a degree of scandal throughout history, but Christ appointed Apostles who appointed Overseers, Presbyters and Deacons to handle human conflict that may arise in the church.

This hierarchy was established to protect the unity of the Church and the verity of the Holy Gospel. Returning again to the idea of a received faith, the Bible serves as the ultimate authority in establishing the various Church officers and our historic faith outlines the basics of what it means to be a Christian.  It is this emphasis on our continuity with the historic Church that explicitly limits women and homosexuals from serving as Overseers, Presbyters and Deacons. To ordain a woman or a homosexual not only serves as a contradiction to the Bible, but is also against the accepted order of ministry we have in the writings of those serving at the time of the Apostles through the Ecumenical councils and to very recent Christian history.

Remembering that the intention of the Reformation was to restore the Holy Catholic and Apostolic church, not to create a new Church. Their goal was to return to the undivided Church of the Creeds. No Christian alone acts as an Ecumenical council and cannot impose their particular dogmas upon the conscience of otherwise faithful Christians. The “priesthood of all believers” does not give me the authority to excommunicate a papist unsubmissive to the five points of Calvinism, and it does not give Rome the right to excommunicate me for refusing to acknowledge the immaculate conception of Mary. Yet, refusing to recognize a Biblically ordained hierarchy creates this exact situation. To receive the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church is to recognize that the councils of the first five centuries have spoken to all things necessary to salvation and upon these I can add no extra burdens.

St. Augustine Snake Bible What the Priesthood of All Believers is NOT

The priesthood of all believers in NOT the Piety of all believers.

Authority and hierarchy were quickly challenged after the establishment of the early Church. Roman persecution tested the integrity of the men assigned to protect the faith and while many were heroically martyred – some fled or gave over Bibles to the Romans. These leaders were then labeled, “traditoresand their entire ministry was called into question. Was their ordination invalidated by their lack of moral character? Was someone baptized by one of the “traditores” really baptized? In the 4th century, a group under the leadership of Bishop Donatus leveled such a charge and denied the ordination and authority of a Bishop who didn’t meet their new standard. This small North Africa sect inserted a division in a way that many modern Christians seem to employ regularly: priesthood by piety.

Against the Donatist idea of the priesthood by piety, St. Augustine drew a distinction between the visible and the eschatological church, not as two churches but rather as two moments in one and the same church. His position was that here on earth the church is holy, but not all its members are holy; it is the Body of Christ, but still having wheat and tares. Instead of deriving the piety of the Church from the level of  virtue of its individual members, he maintained that the piety of the Church is based entirely on the holy nature of its Head, Jesus Christ.

In it is this framework that we can trust nothing more than the authority and hierarchy of the Church. In the balance of authority between the Overseers, Presbyters, Deacons of the universal Church against the Councils and Creeds in light of the Holy Writ, there is the surest form of appeals we can hope for on Earth. Every just sphere of authority whether it be civil or familial follows the church’s example in this hierarchical process of appeals. Our faith is then put into the received faith and order of Christ and his Apostles and not the trust of mere men. Modern individualism imbibes all the dangers of Donatism by refusing either the authority of Ancient Christianity and the hierarchy of its living church.

St. Augustine Snake Bible What the Priesthood of All Believers is NOT

The Priesthood is His Priesthood

The Priesthood of All Believers is to be primarily understood in relation to worship. The Reformation wrestled some very important aspects of worship back from Rome. The first is the participation in worship, much of the medieval mass is done at the altar by a particular priest at the exclusion of the congregation. Even singing and the recitation of scripture was taken over by lectors and choirs. The reformers gave the music, singing, and scripture responses back to the church and returned congressional participation to the liturgy. The priesthood must be more than simply participation for it to be a true priesthood, it must have initiation and rites attached to its purpose. Like the Aaronic line, we are brought into the priesthood through a rite of baptism. Through baptism one is granted the authority to come to the Lord’s table and commune with Christ. This idea of eating the “sacrifice” should in itself remind us of the priestly language of the Old Testament. We are made partakers of the Sacrament by the nature of our priesthood. Thus, the nature of the “priesthood of all believers” is primarily sacramental.

By partaking of the sacramental body of Jesus Christ, we are exercising the true meaning of our priesthood. By eating his body together, we become part of the one body of the Church with Christ as its head. The sacramental meal in the Eucharist is the ultimate rejection of the individual as we all partake of one body together and in subordination to the hierarchy as our pastor acts as Christ feeding us the body of Christ. As we all partake of the one loaf, we become one body, one priesthood of all believers.<>siteаудит а онлайн

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